Teaching Stats in AP Biology or any Biology for that matter?

April 16, 2014 in KABT News

April2014 PD

A reminder:
On Saturday, April 26th I’ll be putting on a free half-day workshop that will explore alternative statistical methods for AP Biology classes. These alternatives are simulation models and resampling models. It is my contention that once you and your students develop these skills you’ll find they will work for almost all the analysis one needs for AP Biology. Even cooler—the models are easier for students to understand than trying to explain why those tables they look up work. The models actually are not math intensive. Using these models will help your students develop a good understanding of analysis/statistics and what the heck a p-value really is. And, the models work for almost all types of data. No need to decide which test to use. Finally, these models line up with the goals Common Core mathematics new emphasis on models, analysis and probability.
If you are interested, register with Katrina Rothrock. (You’ll find her email listed in the attached flyer) Even if you don’t register and find yourself free on that day, stop by and take part.

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by bwelch

An Example of teaching with GIS

April 16, 2014 in Labs, Student Research Ideas, Teaching Resources, Technology

Camden’s post about using technology to allow students to gather field data reminded me about an activity that my Field Ecology students and I completed this past January.  The objective was to use student cell phones, google docs forms, and Edgis to gather fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) leaf nest locations at an urban park close to our school.  The activity enabled my students to get outside and collect squirrel leaf nest (called dreys) locations using their cell phones.  The overall intent was to estimate the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) population from the number of leaf nests in the park.  This activity itself opened up a huge discussion about how accurate our estimate would be.   This discussion triggered quite a literature search by the students to determine what other researchers have found!  As a class we did end up using research literature to help us estimate the fox squirrel population in the park, along with squirrel density and average nest height.  I included the poster that explains the project below.

Squirrel Poster KAS 2014 2

Fruit (Flies) of our Labor

April 15, 2014 in Labs, Student Research Ideas, Teaching Resources

After a long blog hiatus, I thought I would update with the culmination of the pedagogy component of this project (the research is still underway and with several current students planning to spend part of their summer getting some final data and writing the paper, so it should see publication before too long). Missing out on a chance to present, the primary investigator presented our work at the 55th Annual Drosophila Research Conference in beautiful (I assume) San Diego. Our project (weirdly) was viewed with amazement within the larger research community, the idea of letting high school students carry out their own research using research techniques, skills, and concepts typically only seen in the higher education and research community seemed to be unheard of. I hope if nothing else that this is just one example in a long line of many within the teaching community that shows that collaboration between teachers, schools, and research institutions is not only possible, but in fact it is capable of generating authentic research, and more importantly, student interest in biology.

As for a summary of the entire experience for those interested in trying something similar with their own students or to have as a reference, I hope to have something up soon as the year winds down, but for now feel free to comment, contact me, and/or read previous posts.

Education Poster GSA 2014 final

NSTA 2014: More Resources

April 13, 2014 in KABT News, Nature, Student Research Ideas, Teaching Resources, Technology

Thanks to Michael Ralph getting things started.  I would love to have made it to the epigenetics/arabidopsis workshop that he discuss but there is only so much time in a day.  Here are a few of the highlights from my 1 1/2 days at the convention.

Citizen Science with Bats

batconservation  wildlifeacoustics

The world’s leading bat conversation organization, Bat Conservation International (http://batcon.org/) has teamed up with Wildlife Acoustics, a manufacturer of acoustics equipment for field researchers, to produce a product for educators called the Echo Meter Touch, which is a device that can sense ultrasonic wavelength and transfer that information via a user frienldy and free app available for the iPhone and iPad.  A promotional video will give you the details.


Written details on the product can be found here: http://www.wildlifeacoustics.com/education.  One Echo Meter Touch will set you back $523 and will include the Discover Bats Curriculum Guide produced in conjunction with Bat Conservation International.  The only draw back may be the double flipping your classroom so that you can meet your students in the field at dusk to collect some data.  If I get around to purchasing my own, I’ll let you know more of what I think.  If any of you plan to purchase let me know.  It would be a nice thing to test on our KABT Spring Field Trip.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Birds-of-Paradise Project


Every since I read David Quammen’s “Song of the Dodo” years ago, I have been interested in the Wallace’s independent discover of natural selection and his observations of the Birds-of-Paradise (a part of the larger story of Island Biogeography).  Well now the famed Ornithology Labs at Cornell have developed some curriculum.  I have not explored these activities but in the presentation they showed the work by two of their researchers in capturing video of all 39 species.  I can’t wait to have some time to check it out.

http://www.birdsofparadiseproject.org/ - This website contains information on the project to document the 39 Birds-of-Paradise

http://www.birdsleuth.org/paradise/ - This site contains the “lessons” that have been developed to teache about the scientific process, natural and sexual selection, and behavior and heritability.


GIS in the Classroom

April 12, 2014 in Student Research Ideas, Teaching Resources, Technology

Today at KU Edwards Campus I attended the “GIS in the Classroom” workshop, part of April’s PD opportunities provided the KU Center for STEM Learning (under who the UKanTeach program can be found). Skipping right to the chase, you can find my notes, ideas, and instructions for using GIS in the classroom here. Most of what I have to say about the workshop can be found there so I’m not going to re-hash much here, in fact I would enjoy comments on KABT as well as within the document, especially ideas on how to engage students in projects involving GIS, which is what part of the workshop was dedicated to. The other main focus was showing how student devices (smartphones and tablets) can be used to do this, no sophisticated GPS systems needed (although they definitely can be used).

I think for biology the primary opportunity this allows for is field sampling. The ways it could be used in the field is pretty vast, not limited to creating trails, collecting probe data, mark and recapture, basic sampling, etc. Obviously the benefit here is quick data collection that is forwarded to a central data sheet (CSV file) that is live and can be uploaded straight to many types of maps for data visualization. In the workshop today we recorded various life stages of dandelions in mowed and unmowed regions of Edwards Campus and uploaded and manipulated that data on a map.

So with that, what does everyone else think? What type of capacity do we visualize students using the technology (even outside of field studies)?

NSTA 2014 – Ideas and Resources

April 6, 2014 in KABT News, Labs, Teaching Resources

As I sit here among the clouds, thousands of feet in the air speeding back toward the central time zone, I am reflecting upon my time spent in Boston.  The NSTA national conference has drawn to a close and I am making the realization that I have accumulated several exciting ideas that I hope to implement in my classroom over the next year.  Perhaps some of you would be interested in adapting these things for use in your classroom as well.

Epigenetics in Arabidopsis

This is probably one of the most exciting resources for me in this year’s sessions.  A presenter from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories shared an experiment that uses several procedures to elucidate epigenetic regulation of the FWA gene in Arabidopsis thaliana.  The gene is heavily methylated in the wild type phenotype, which leads to normal flowering.  The FWA-1 mutant has delayed flowering by a couple weeks, and results from only a lack of silencing at this locus.

The presentation showed resources for growing both phenotypes in the lab and capturing the difference in time lapse (more on this later).  She then went on to show how DNA isolation, PCR, and electrophoresis can be used to show there is only a difference in epigenetic regulation and zero difference in base pair sequence.  This hits my biotechnology objectives in AP Biology in a fantastic, and coherent, way that I have not achieved before.  I even plan to loop my BLAST work in with this experiment, likely as a chance to spiral rather than as primary exposure to the tool.

The kits are sold through Carolina (and likely other suppliers) and a link to the lab manual the presenter shared can be found here.


Arabidopsis thaliana – Wikimedia Commons

Time Lapse in the Classroom

I left the above presentation wondering how I could have my students create their own time lapse videos instead of using the existing videos (which there are, and they’re great by the way).  Enter a session on time lapse videos in the classroom.  A few tricks and an inexpensive resource with a free option make me believe I can actually start doing this with all my students.

Lapse it is the app I found to be the option I am interested in using.  The free features are great, and the pro version is only two bucks and you get all the functionality you could want.  Use some dedicated counter space to allow students to setup their planters and have them use tape to define the corners of their shots.  Each day they can use an iPad, phone, or basic camera to take the same photo each day of their plants.  The pro version of Lapse it will stich all those photos together into a video using any frame rate you choose.  The free version can capture the video within the app, but something this long term will likely need the pro version.

I’m thinking the free version would be great for shooting a lab procedure at some point.  Using ring stands and clamps students can setup an iPad or phone to capture a picture every so often (maybe every 5 or 10 seconds) as they conduct a lab.  In the end they’ll have a brief video of their procedure they could use for peer review or replication by a partner classroom.  If anyone is interested in trying the replication route, let me know!

Biology Rocks

The last session I’m pretty excited about was my own.  While I have been fired up about this content for a while, what makes this worth including now is the 100% redesign of our website.  We are making all our resources available for free, because we want to ensure every teacher that wants lab guides and resources can use them regardless of the financial means of their district.  All the digital resources are free, and even the print resources are now available even lower than our cost.  I’m super excited about this change, and I hope you all are too.  You can find all our stuff at biologyrocks.org.

There was much more available at NSTA than I saw, so I’d be interested to hear from others that were able to attend.  Did you see anything in other sessions that changed your perspective or solved a problem?  NSTA in Boston is over, but the collaboration doesn’t have to be!  Chime in, and let’s get a dialogue started.


Using Plotly—embedding a graph

March 27, 2014 in KABT News

Check out what Plot.ly allows you to do:

by the way you can click on the link over on the right and go to the even more interactive graph and leave comments.


BioBuilder Professional Development Workshop in KS

March 19, 2014 in Events, Labs, Teaching Resources

After a few years of integrating Synthetic Biology into our molecular course offering at CAPS, I am happy to announce that we will be offering a 3-Day BioBuilder Workshop at CAPS on July 8-10.  This three day professional development opportunity will prepare educators to bring biological engineering and synthetic biology into their classrooms and laboratories.  The workshop will include:

    • Lectures that connect the engineering/science/math and technology aspects of these fields.
    • Labs and classroom activities taught from the online www.BioBuilder.org resources.
    • Lunchtime discussions with members of the synthetic biology community.
    • Activities that address the nuts and bolts of running an iGEM team.

Attendees will receive lunch each day and 45 PDPs. Attendees must commit to implementing a BioBuilder activity in the 2014-2015 academic year and provide feedback on the effort.

Who should apply?

    • High school Biology teachers, especially those teaching introductory biology or those looking for new ways to teach the AP content or for compelling material to teach college-bound students after the AP exam is completed
    • College-level instructors looking for classroom and lab curricula to include in a biotechnology-style class
    • Science Club leaders, in particular anyone looking for ways to bring cutting edge content to students with a variety interests from math to biology to electronics.

How to apply?

    • The application is online: http://biobuilder.org/workshops/
    • 3 day workshop is $250/person (scholarships are available).
    • Registration fees include full tuition, lunch each day, and written materials.
    • A non-refundable registration/deposit fee of $50 is due upon application, reserving your place in a workshop. Balance is due one week in advance of the workshop.
    • Pre-registration is required for all participants, as space is limited.

What is Synthetic Biology?

Synthetic Biology is an emerging field that applies engineering and mathematical principles to the development of novel biological systems. These principles and technologies extend the teaching of molecular genetic techniques into real world, authentic applications.  Examples of synthetic systems include bacteria that smell like bananas, and light-sensitive bacteria that can serve as pixels in a photograph. These teachable systems are included in
the curriculum at Biobuilder.org.

Why teach Synthetic Biology?

Synthetic biology provides teachers and students an engineering context to learn molecular biology, genetic engineering and microbiology methods. This approach asks students to learn while designing, or testing designs of, engineered biological systems. In addition, this approach provides science teachers with a means of exploring numerous state and national technology standards that are hard to address in most science classes.

Workshop Instructors

Kevin McCormick is a science teacher at Summit Technology Academy in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He teaches the Project Lead The Way capstone courses in the Biomedical Sciences, Medical Interventions and Biomedical Innovations. He participated in a week long BioBuilder workshop held at MIT in the summer of 2013.

Dr. Dave Westenberg is a microbiologist who has taught in the Department of Biological Sciences at Missouri University of Science and Technology for the past 17 years. He is co-advisor for the Missouri S&T iGEM team and teaches a course in Biological Experimental Design and Innovation. He also chairs the American Society for Microbiology Committee on K-12 Outreach.

Eric Kessler is completing his 22nd year as a biology instructor. He currently directs the Bioscience Program in the Blue Valley School
District’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS). He has received grants and awards that include the Milken Award, Kansas
Outstanding Biology Teacher, Kansas Wildlife Educator of the Year, and NSTA Ron Mardigian Bio-Rad Biotechnology Explorer Award. He participated in a week long BioBuilder workshop held at Purdue in summer of 2012, and has facilitated the high school iGEM program in 2012 and 2013.

Apply or Nominate for 2014 Kansas Outstanding Biology Teacher Award!

March 13, 2014 in Events, KABT News, NABT news

I am excited to announce that it’s that time again…

The new criteria for the 2014 Kansas Outstanding Biology Teacher Award is available!! If you would like to apply, please start working on the application (attached below). There is no need to let me know ahead of time that you are applying since we have always allowed self nominations.

If you would like to nominate someone else for this award, feel free to send me their name and I will contact them with the information.

Being either self-nominated or peer-nominated is not weighted differently in the committee evaluation process. All applications and letters of recommendation are due by FRIDAY, APRIL 25.  Click here for the application information: OBTA requirements_2014

Here’s a ditty from NABT about this fantastic award:
Every year, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) program attempts to recognize an outstanding biology educator (grades 7-12 only) in each of the 50 states; Washington, DC; Canada; Puerto Rico; and overseas territories. Candidates for this award do not have to be NABT members, but they must have at least three years of public, private, or parochial school teaching experience. A major portion of the nominee’s career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science, and candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, inventiveness, initiative, and student-teacher relationships. OBTA recipients are special guests at the Honors Luncheon held at the NABT Professional Development Conference, receive microscopes from Leica Microsystems, gift certificates from Carolina Biological Supply Company, and award certificates and complimentary one-year membership from NABT.

Please let me know if you have any questions!
Kelley Tuel

KATS Kamp Scholarships

March 7, 2014 in KABT News

KCFS KATS Kamp Scholarships

Kansas Citizens for Science, a long time partner with KATS, announces scholarships of $100-275 to be awarded to attendees for KATS Kamp this spring.

KCFS realizes that KATS Kamp is the premiere professional development opportunity for science teachers in Kansas. We therefore want to provide the opportunity for increased numbers of K-12 teachers to attend.

Early career teachers who have district/building mentors are encouraged to have their mentors apply also. If an early career teacher is awarded a scholarship, their mentor will receive one also. We want such teams to be able to work together at Kamp. An early career teacher may, of course, apply even if no mentor applies.

KCFS will provide scholarships based on the following criteria:
Teachers who will be first time Kamp attendees.
Early career teachers.
Teachers whose district provides no support for attendance.
Teachers who will agree to attend one of the sessions sponsored by KCFS
District/building mentors of early career teachers

Award recipients will be expected to apply knowledge obtained at Kamp in their classroom.

Applicants do not have to meet all the above criteria, but these are the criteria which will be used to determine scholarship recipients.

Applications may be downloaded from the the KATS website or from www.kcfs.org. Applications should be sent by email to Harry McDonald, KCFS President, biologycctrack@hotmail.com, by March 15.

Recipients will be contacted by March 22 by email.

KCFS KATS Kamp Scholarship

Name ______________________________________________

Email address _______________________________________

School _____________________________________________

Grade/Subject taught _________________________________

Attended Kamp before Yes ______ No ______

Number of years teaching _____________________________

My district provides help with registration fees Yes ___ No ___

I agree to attend at least one of the KCFS-sponsored sessions at Kamp Yes _____ No _____

If you are in your first three years of teaching and have a mentor who is also applying, please name your mentor. If you receive a scholarship, so will your mentor.

What I hope to learn by attending KATS Kamp:

Submit by Mar. 15
Email to: biologycctrack@hotmail.com